The purpose of fiction is to help readers gain better insight into everyday life in the real world, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout said during her appearance April 26 as part of the Bexley Community Author Series.
"We think we know our husband, our wives, our children. We think we share confidences with our closest friends. We think they share confidences with us, but we don't fully," Strout said. "There is necessarily a space between ourselves and our perceptions of the world and each other. And into this space slips literature and poetry."
During her appearance at Capital University's Mees Hall, Strout, 62, discussed her most recent works and her writing process, followed by a question-and-answer session and book signing. Ivonne Garcia, a Bexley resident and an English professor at Kenyon College, led the Q&A.
Strout's latest novel, "Anything is Possible," became a New York Times best seller upon its release in May 2017. Her 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection "Olive Kitteridge," was adapted into an Emmy-winning HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand, who recently won the Best Actress Academy Award for the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri".
Strout related that while she does not base her works directly on her own life, her stories and characters are loosely drawn from her life experiences. Strout said her fiction is shaped by her upbringing in small towns in New Hampshire and Maine and living and working as a lawyer, English professor and writer in New York City as an adult.
Strout said readers often ask her if her fifth novel, 2016's "My Name Is Lucy Barton," is autobiographical because the main character is a writer and the book is written in first person. The story focuses on the protagonist's complicated relationship with her mother.
Strout said her own mother encouraged her to write, but added, "Lucy is not me, but there's a part of me in her. There's a part of me in every single character I write about, because I have really only myself to use."
The Bexley Community Author Series is a collaboration among the Bexley Community Foundation, the Bexley Public Library and Bexley-based Gramercy Books, which made Strout's books available for purchase and signing following her presentation.
BPL Director Ben Heckman said a selection committee began planning this year's Community Author Series event last May.
The committee was "made up of library staff and community members who provided the feedback and encouragement to select Elizabeth Strout as our featured author," he said.
Capital University President Elizabeth Paul said hosting the Bexley Community Author Series was an opportunity to welcome lifelong learners from Bexley and beyond to campus.
"It is our intention to throw open the windows, to throw open the doors, to welcome our full community," Paul said. "I hope this (event) is the first of many to come."